Yesterday was a big day for me. We announced that NAPA was coming back and that Martin Truex, Jr. will drive the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota in 2010. I will also run for NAPA in the Daytona 500 so you will see two of your cars go out there in February and try to win the race for you.
I couldn’t be happier about what was announced. NAPA is by far the best sponsor any driver could hope to have. They have stuck with me as I have built this team and experienced some struggles. Now they are seeing the performance of the teams really improve. It’s time for us to take it to the next level and win a championship for them. NAPA deserves it as they have been my sponsor for nine years and won two Daytona 500s with me. But the main thing I want to say about NAPA is they have over achieved for me. They have been there every step of the way. My dream was to build Michael Waltrip Racing and with their support, we were able to do that. The MWR facility and people would not be here if it wasn’t for NAPA and their commitment to MWR. That’s a very humbling thought for me. It’s also very motivation to me. It makes me want to do everything I can in the whole world for them and to insure that we get NAPA more victories and a place at the championship table in 2010 with Martin Truex, Jr.
I am going to share with you some of my thoughts and parts of my speech from yesterday’s press conference. While some people think I may be sad, I am not. I couldn’t be happier about what transpired as we continue to move forward together.
I was born; my brother was 16 years old, and all I’ve ever known my whole life is running up and down the road going to races. From a very young age I knew exactly what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a race car driver, just like my big brother.
And I wanted to be a team owner at some point, just like my big brother, so I’ve got a lot of my inspiration and a lot of the direction and things I’ve done in my life come from Darrell. And the thing that I’m most proud about is he never let me down.
He was a role model that was there for me, and I’m certainly thankful for him in more ways than you can imagine, especially in this world where sometimes your heroes let you down, my brother never did, so thank you, big brother.
I started racing because I wanted to drive a car. And today, you know, that’s exactly where I am. I just love driving race cars. Having a team was a part of my dream.
I’m here today to tell you that there has been a time or two when I thought maybe it was going to say “for sale” or “for lease” out front instead of “Michael Waltrip Racing,” but we pushed through, and we’ve made this place a formidable competition to the rest.
Winning the Coca Cola was one of the best days of my career, and I can’t tell you how wonderful having that trophy is. I didn’t think about winning a race, I just thought about racing. I’ve won $47 million; I read the other day, and FYI, my half in this team cost about $48, so I’m not up by any stretch of the imagination.
But it’s been fun to be “all in” and invest in the sport like I’ve been able to do. There are so many people that have helped me get here, and I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for and some that I wish were here now, including my dad, LeRoy, Mr. France gave me direction and suggestions on how to act at a time or two, told me not to act like my brother, which that was kinda hard, Dick Bahre, Chuck Rider and Dale Earnhardt, who helped me to find my career.
There have been great sponsors, Pennzoil, Aaron’s, Kraft, Citizens, Best Western, Freightliner, and those folks have helped me get to where we are today. But there has been one sponsor that has defined my career, and we’ve been together for nine seasons, and that’s NAPA AUTO PARTS. I’m the only driver that has ever driven the car full time for NAPA, and we have one of the longest driver-sponsor relationships in the sport.
I’m certainly proud of our relationship and all we’ve been able to accomplish over the last nine years and especially proud of how much their support has meant to me. They started running ad campaigns that let me goof off and be me, and I think it helped make NAPA and me synonymous with one another.
It certainly was a joy for me to be a part of. I told them about my dream in 2005 about owning a Sprint Cup team, and they said they wanted to live my dream with me and we started on this road in the middle of ‘05 toward racing for the first time in ‘07.
There was a time or two in ‘07 when we all thought maybe the dream wasn’t that good of an idea, but when I got down, they were there saying, “You’re our owner, you’re our driver, we’ll get through this. This isn’t how the dream ends. The dream ends with the NAPA car being in victory lane.”
And that’s what kept me going. As an owner I knew there would come a time when I wouldn’t be a full time driver anymore, and that time is now. In 2010, I’m going to run a limited schedule, a few races here and there, not really sure how many or where they will be. I do know that for the 52nd running of my favorite race and the biggest race in the world, the 52nd run of the Daytona 500, thanks to NAPA AUTO PARTS I will be racing in the 500 in my NAPA car, No. 55.
I’m proud and happy. I’m turning my car over to a guy that I think can go win the championship in it, and I’ve always said I’ve been racing these cars for a long time, as we all well know — if I thought I wasn’t the best man for the job, I wouldn’t have had a ride for this long. If I wasn’t the guy to go race it on Sunday, somebody else would take my place. And I believe at this time in my career that Martin is the right guy to take over my car and go win races in it. I’m sitting here happy about the fact that Martin is taking over my car. I didn’t have to quit, I didn’t need to quit, I just wanted to do this for to me it’s always been about the sponsors, and NAPA has been the greatest sponsor I could ever have, and I thought this was an opportunity to put them in victory lane on a regular basis, and that’s why we’re sitting here today. I couldn’t be happier or prouder. I’m really thankful.